David Jeremiah - The Importance of the Bible
A few years ago, "The New Yorker" magazine carried an article entitled, "The Good Book Business and Why Publishers Love the Bible". The writers made a remarkable claim. The familiar observation that the Bible is the bestselling book of all time obscures an even more startling fact, and that is that the Bible is the bestselling book of the year every single year. In the United States alone, 50 Bibles are sold every minute, 72,000 every day, and 26 million every year.
By comparison, the top five bestsellers combined sold 12 million copies. The disparity between the all-time number of Bible sales and the next three bestselling single-volume books is astounding. The total number of Bibles printed and distributed since they began to take note of it is between 6 and 7 billion Bibles. By comparison, the top bestselling single-volume books of all time are, "A Tale of Two Cities", 200 million; "The Lord of the Rings", Tolkien wrote it as a single book, 150 million; and "The Little Prince", 140 million.
The disparity between Bible sales and even the best five books we can put up against it is amazing. In fact, the Gideons alone, during their 100 years of ministry, have distributed 1.6 billion copies of God's Word in more than 190 countries around the globe. They're one of many entities committed to the worldwide distribution of Scripture. Hundreds of publishers, thousands of outlets, and millions of people are sharing the good news of Christ as revealed in the Bible.
Did you know that more people read the Bible than any other book? Without question, it is the most important book in the world. And this is the conviction not just of Christian believers but also of thoughtful political statesmen, royalty, and renowned intellectuals. For instance, Winston Churchill called the Bible a masterpiece. Writers as diverse as Milton, and Swift, and Scott have borrowed liberally from its pages. In fact, if you were to delete every biblical reference from the great art and literature of the world, our galleries and our libraries would shrink in half.
Artists and poets and writers and sculptors and musicians have filled the world with their works based on biblical themes. No book in the world or the history of the world has inspired more creativity than the Bible. The Bible was written over a span of 1500 years by more than 40 human authors from all walks of life. They were kings and farmers, historians and fishermen, prophets and apostles. It was written in three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and in four geopolitical regions: the Middle East, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, and Southern Europe.
Now the Spirit of God moved the writers of Scripture as they wrote so that the words that they recorded were nothing less than the very words of God. Yet, at the same time, the authors' own styles and personalities are evident in their writings. The first translation of the English Bible made it into the language of English was done by John Wycliffe in 1382 AD. It was first printed in 1454 AD by Johannes Gutenberg who invented the type mold for the printing press.
Did you know that the Bible was the first book ever printed? And history shows that the development of European culture and from there all of western civilization is based upon the Bible. The Ten Commandments are the cornerstone of jurisprudence; and the Sermon on the Mount, the foundation of morality and ethics around the world. And today, the English Bible is everywhere.
If you have ever made light of something, or shown the patience of Job, or noticed the signs of the times, or called someone the salt of the earth, or full of good works, if you have ever resolved to fight the good fight, been where two or three are gathered together, found that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and in spite of the powers that be decided to eat, drink, and be merry, or have been saved by the skin of your teeth, then you've quoted the English Bible in phrases etched into our daily language forever and for over 400 years.
Billy Graham said of the Scripture that, "No other book can touch its profound wisdom, its poetic beauty, or the accuracy of its history and prophecy. The Bible embodies all of the knowledge man needs to fill the longing of his soul and solve all of his problems", said Graham. "I wanna be saturated with the Bible. I wanna know it by heart before I die". And even scientist Richard Dawkins, famous for his militant atheism, confessed to a lifelong love for the King James translation, would you believe? And he called it a, "precious heritage". And fellow atheist, Christopher Hitchens, admires its crystalline prose.
Do you know the incredible Word of God, men and women, for believers has had such great value and that value is evident in their willingness to sacrifice their very lives for possessing it. If you look back over history you will see this clearly. In the great persecution of the church in AD303, the Roman Emperor Diocletian was determined to destroy the Scriptures. His comment was that any copy of the Bible that was found was burned and thousands of believers and their families were martyred because they would not throw away their copies of the Bible. This killing and destruction of the Scriptures went on for two years, after which a victory column was erected over the ashes of a Bible with these words that indicated that the Bible was now extinct. But 20 years later, the Emperor Constantine proclaimed the Bible the infallible judge of all truth and it came back to life.
French humanist, Voltaire, who lived between 1694 and 1778, boastfully proclaimed, quote, "Fifty years from now the world will hear no more of the Bible". Yet in the year of his boast, the British Museum purchased a manuscript of the Greek New Testament from the Russian government for $500,000 while a first edition of Voltaire's book was selling for 8 cents a copy. And 50 years after the death of Voltaire, listen to this, Bibles were being printed by the Geneva Bible Society in the very house where Voltaire had lived and on his very own printing presses. Don't you think God has a sense of humor?
The French protestants known as the Huguenots pictured it as an anvil surrounded by three blacksmiths and beneath the picture they inscribed this little poem: "The more they pound and the more they shout, the more they wear their hammers out". A thousand times over, men and women, the death knell of the Bible has been sounded, the funeral procession has been formed, the inscriptions have been cut on the tombstone, and the committal has read. Somehow, the corpse never stays put.
And so today, we look back on history and all the critics and we realize that in a strange way, Moses has outlived Voltaire, Isaiah has outlasted Ingersoll, the apostles have outsmarted the agnostics, and the prophets have overpowered the professors. And the Bible still stands as God's wonderful message to man.
As long as I can remember, the Bible's been a major part of my life. I grew up in the home of a Baptist preacher and like some other people I have heard, I had a drug problem. I was drug to church every time the doors were open. I started memorizing the Bible as a child when I was a part of an organization called the Bible Memory Association. I'm not sure what my motivation was at the time. I was probably competing to win some sort of prize. But I can tell you that I still today, after all these many years, remember verses that I memorized when I was a little kid.
My first meaningful relationship with the Bible came when I was in the 6th grade. Believe it or not, back then when I was in the 6th grade, the Gideons were allowed to distribute copies of the New Testament to students in the 6th grade of the public schools. And I remember getting a little copy of a Gideon New Testament and beginning to read it on my own. A little bit later on, my parents gave me a Scofield Reference Bible and all of you are groaning 'cause you all had one of those, growing up.
As far as I know, that's the first Bible with any kind of notes in it that I had ever seen and I had a gray one that I still have in my office. It's kind of worn out and the binding is coming apart but I remember often reading from that Bible and wondering what something meant and trying to find out if Mr. Scofield had anything to say about it down at the bottom. During the final two years of my college experience at Cedarville College in Ohio, I took several Bible courses and I began to seriously contemplate becoming a gospel minister.
When I graduated from Cedarville, I enrolled at Dallas Seminary and began the scholarly study of the Bible. I have only pastored two churches in my 40-some years as a minister. Donna and I started the Blackhawk Baptist Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1969 and pastored that church until 1981 when we moved to San Diego to lead what is now called the Shadow Mountain Community Church. We have been in this church now for over 30 years. When we built our worship center back in 1990 we had a beautiful stained glass window created at the very front of the building.
The words in that window give testimony to the priority we place upon God's book, the Bible. Those words are from Psalm 119, verse 130: "The entrance of your words give light". When people ask me what I do, I often answer by saying, "Well, I read the Bible and I study the Bible and I preach the Bible and I put the Bible on the radio and I put the Bible on television. And I write books about the Bible and articles and study guides about the Bible. And put the Bible on the Internet". That's what I believe God has called me to do, that's what I wanna do, and frankly, that's all I know how to do.
You see, men and women, I believe that the Bible is the only God-inspired book ever written. It is definitive and authoritative, and I have great confidence that as long as I am faithful to the text, honoring it as it is, God's Word and not taking the text out of context, which as you know becomes a pretext, as long as I'm faithful to the context, you say, "What does that mean"? Well, maybe you've known someone in your life who uses the Bible in a random way to get answers from God. And when they need an answer, they just open the Bible and put their finger on a verse and they read it.
And I read about a young man who was doing that one day, trying to find out God's will for his life. He opened the Bible, put his finger on the Scripture and it said, "And then Judas went out and hung himself". And he knew that couldn't be right so he flipped it over to some other pages and stuck his finger down again and, lo and behold, what he came upon was another verse that said, "Go thou and do likewise". "Oh no, that can't be proper. Give it one more shot". So he opened it again, put his finger down on a Scripture and here's what came out: "Whatsoever thou doest, do quickly".
You know, if you study the Bible that way you can make it say anything you want it to say. But if you study the Bible to understand what it meant when it was written to the people who read it first, you will understand about the Bible some incredible truth. Here is God's promise for those who will honor his Word, from the words of Isaiah the prophet: "So shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it".
Tonight we are celebrating the completion and publication of the Jeremiah Study Bible. This is the culmination of a lifetime of studying and teaching the Word of God. Over these many years I have watched this book and the Savior it presents permanently change the lives of people. And it is my prayer that the Study Bible introduced on this night will encourage you to make the study of God's Word a priority in your life. It will always be the most influential book in the world because its message originated with God and it resolves the most pressing human need which is how to know God and be reconciled to him. So may the words of this book, the Bible, fill your memory, rule your heart, guide your feet. Read it slowly and frequently and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, a river of pleasure. It is given to you in this life and it will be open someday at the judgment and remembered forevermore, amen.